This paper focuses on the first Jesuit church in East Asia, the Church of St. Paul’s (Dasanbasi 大三巴寺). Built in 1594, the church was a highlight in a global circulatory system of architectural and artistic production, and an important site in the expansion of Jesuit missionary activities, the Catholic Church, and the secular domains of Portugal and Spain into Ming-controlled territory. A closer look at the engaging architectural experiences generated by St. Paul’s ornamentation and spatial composition reveals how the Jesuits integrated Chinese features into their own existing architectural and religious systems to better convey the divine to local populations in the interests of converting them to Christianity. Other important elements in the church’s design and construction to be discussed include its altarpiece, Michael the Archangel, which may be read as a signifier of the Jesuit mission’s administrative shift from Nagasaki to Macao. And the physicality of the church itself—a product of excessive labor involving the expansion of slavery across the Portuguese territory—reinforced the early imperial presence of the Iberian forces in Ming Macao. Finally, this paper also offers a comparison with churches in Milan and Rome to suggest the fertile geopolitical relationship existing between the establishment of the Jesuit mission in Macao and the narrative of the Counter-Reformation in the Catholic World. Attention paid to this crucial yet understudied church contributes to our understanding of the concept of self and other at the time, the global circulation of objects and people, and the ways in which competing imperialisms enrich and associations of the early modern with Sino-Euro encounters in the seventeenth century.
Moyun Zhou is a PhD candidate whose research interests lie in Renaissance and Baroque Art and Architecture in the world from the fifteenth to nineteenth centuries, with a specific focus on the mid-sixteenth to the early eighteenth centuries ecclesiastical architecture in East Asia. She received her BA and MA in History of Art from Indiana University Bloomington. She examines how the church space interacted with the local community, reflected a body of power negotiation, and carried out a dialogue of Globalization during the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries.